First Impressions: Review of the Feeble Alias, By Johnathan

Ah, the alias, that good old super-villain standby. What a relief it must be to sign into a motel under an assumed name and sleep soundly, content in the knowledge that Aquaman, for instance, is looking for someone else entirely. It's too bad that so many villains are so terrible at thinking them up. I mean, the names that most of them were born with are often bad enough - E. Nigma, I'm looking at you - but give a super-villain half an hour to think up a fake name and he'll produce something so obvious that I simply despair. I'd honestly be surprised if there wasn't a guest book somewhere with 'I. M. Captainboomerang' written in it. And the worst, the absolute worst of the lot is the Joker, the man responsible for H.A. Laughlin, L. Afterman, Joseph Kerr and so forth. That's right: Joe friggin' Kerr.

But possibly the worst of all showed up in Detective Comics No. 45, as shown in this dramatization of my internal monologue as I read this issue:

The guys in the super-keen car are in the employ of an old fellow named A. Rekoj, who just sent them out to rip off a diamond shipment. Batman showed up and there was a scrap, but the real bummer was when the freakin' Joker stole the loot! I mean, it's crazy! How did he know about the robbery?

Man, Rekoj is steamed about the whole Joker thing. I bet Rekoj and Joker are enemies from now on. Fifty years from now, people will still be talking about the Rekoj/Joker feud.

Wait a second! Hold the phone! Rekoj is the Joker! He's played us all for chumps! And he's executed his plan flawlessly! Batman's never going to figure this one out!

Holy crap! Batman figured it out! He figured out that Rekoj = Joker! How'd he do that! He just straight up earned the 'world's greatest detective' thing! Woo!

And... scene.

The really sad thing is that Batman figured it out by listening in on the Joker as he talked to himself. More like 'world's greatest dorktective', man.


First Impressions: Review of The Bat-Man, By Johnathan

Whew! I've been slogging through these old Detective Comics issues for a while now, just to get to this point. Not that there isn't a lot of fun in the things - Siegel and Shuster's 'Spy' feature was always pretty fun, for example - but into every 68-page anthology comic a little crappy storytelling must fall and I've read all of it. Curse you, Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise! Curse you, half the adventures of Bruce Nelson! No matter, though: I have reached No. 27 and so from now on shall have :

Oh, man. I'm going to be looking forward to the Bat-Man story in every issue. This was a great little yarn, which is both unsurprising and a bit of a relief. I mean, it makes sense that the first appearance of a character as enduring as Batman is good - otherwise why would he have been invited back the next month - but there's always that little twinge of fear when reading something like this. What if Batman's first appearance was terrible? Am I a fool for liking him? What does this say about my Batman-themed wedding? Lucky for me (and the future Mrs. Review [Ladies? Call me.]) all is well with the bat-past - this is a great comic.

Since several different parts of the bat-mythos (not, however, including the practice of sticking the 'bat' prefix onto things) made their debuts in this adventure I'll be dealing with them separately.

Commissioner Gordon:

This is the Gordon that you see in comics all the way through the Golden and Silver Ages: round glasses, pencil-thin mustache, slicked back hair and some moderate jowliness. In my head I uncharitably refer to him as "Fat Gordon". Fat Gordon might not look as cool or as tough as the current version, but check out his mad police skills:

"They say you killed your father!" That's Bad Cop.

And up there? That's Good Cop. Gordon's a whole damn team of detectives all on his lonesome. I'll bet that after this he started lifting fingerprints off of things before taking a quick jog downtown to stop a riot. Fat Gordon's got the goods, even if he looks a little bloated.


Ah, but check this out:

First appearance of the Bat-man! I must say, I like the flared out cape, even though it must give him some trouble in doorways. This is definitely the only version of Batman that looks good with the cape thrown forward over his shoulders like that. Usually it looks really affected and weird - like Batman is getting too into being cape-dramatic and is maybe thinking about going to a Ren Faire or a LARP party, somewhere where they really appreciate all the interesting and visually appealing things that you can do with a cape - but flared out like that it looks pretty fantastic. Note that Bat-Man has scared the crap out of someone in his very first on-panel appearance.

He kicks a fair amount of ass, too.

I love how many aspects of the Batman we all know and lovingly fear show up in this comic. It's not that surprising, in that Detective was essentially about guys solving mysteries and socking bad guys, but it's nice that Batman didn't start out dressed all in green or as some sort of laughing Shadow knock-off. I don't know if beating up some guys and taking a piece of paper off of them qualifies him for the title of World's Greatest Detective just yet but every little bit counts, you know?

Fantastic death traps weren't uncommon at the time but rarely were they foiled with such speed and competence. Bat-Man just schools this thing. Note that he doesn't narrate what he's doing either. This is the quiet version of our old pal. Lord. I'm just gushing now.

Ah, there's the detecting. Bat-Man finally opens his mouth and solves the whole mystery. So: we've got the detectin' the fightin' and the scarin'. Sounds like a Batman to me, Larry.

And then there's this:

Early Batman's a bit more cavalier about human life than the present-day chap. To be fair, the guy was an asshole. I'm not entirely sure how long it takes before the official bat-position is that All Life Is Sacred but I'm glad of it. As interesting as it is to see the Dark Knight off bad guys without compunction, imagine what kind of horror that Batman would have become during the Nineties. Brrr.

As a final touch: the first time that Batman pulled the old "take off in the middle of a conversation" trick. A classic.

Aside from his purple gloves, this version of Bat-Man is


The Batmobile:

Well, not really. Bat-Man does drive a car in this issue, though. Here are its two panels of glory:

Bright red, without even the bat head on the hood? Not cool. Even less cool? matching the interior of your car to your awful purple gloves.


Bruce Wayne:

Bruce shows up as a guy who's just idly visiting the Commissioner of Police and tags along with him to a crime scene. For the first half of the story he's just peeking over Gordon's shoulder as he interviews witnesses and looks at evidence and so forth. He also looks rather dashing with a pipe:

I don't much care for the checked suit but I'm pretty sure that it was the height of fashion in its day, so I'll let that pass. One terrific thing about this Bruce Wayne is that he started off not as a shallow party animal but as a guy who is constantly bored, like he's partied so much that even a murder investigation doesn't interest him in the least.

See? He couldn't care less about some tawdry murder but at least it beats deflowering Gotham's latest crop of debutantes or whatever else he had penciled in for that afternoon.

When Bruce Wayne says "Ho-hum", he means it.

I am left wondering, though. Why do these two hang out so much? Does the Commissioner actually like hanging out with this yawning pretty-boy? Maybe Gordon's just looking out for his future - sooner or later there's going to be an overdosed cheerleader or five to quietly dispose of and the day after that Gotham's going to have to find a new Commissioner of Police.


Bruce Wayne ended up being JOHN APPROVED. Do you want to know why?

Turns out he's the goddamned Bat-Man! Man, was I surprised.

Review of First Impressions: Slam Bradley, By Johnathan

Oh, dang. I dropped the ball. There was a vote for Slam Bradley and I did Command Kid anyway. Well, far be it from me to disappoint little abs, whoever he or she might be. Here comes the first in yet another series of reviews. I've got basically the entire run of Detective Comics here and I'm determined to read them all. This means that I'm going to come across all kinds of long-running DC characters as they make their very first appearance. Whee! So every time I encounter someone like Batman, the Joker or whoever I'm going to review the first impression that they made.

Today it's Slam Bradley, all the way from Detective Comics No. 1!

First off, let me say that this review is packed full of 1937 America's idea of what Chinese people looked like. There's really no avoiding them in the comics of the time. Sorry if it offends. Just for the record, I don't believe in a nation of vivid yellow, murderous, pajama-clad pony tail-havers. I've advanced to hating the scheming Communist hordes.

The above page isn't a preview of the rest of the comic, by the way. Slam Bradley comics start in media res, usually with Slam in the middle of a fight.

Slam knows how to talk to the ladies:

Sarcastically. So: Fact 1, Slam Bradley likes to fight. Fact 2, he's not impressed by wealth. He's an irreverent rogue with a ready wit.

He's also got Shorty following him around. Shorty's a mail-order detective, a sub-genre that popped up a lot in the Thirties and Forties but has since died out. He's also possibly the best sidekick of all time, the prototype for all of the half-cowardly, half-courageous second bananas to follow. Subsequent to this adventure he dresses better, too.

Fact 3: Slam Bradley likes fighting more than he likes poodle-dogs. Also, "Jumpin' blue blazes." is pretty good.

For this comic only, Slam is a bit of a jerk to Shorty, who only wants to be partners with him:

Anyway, Shorty ends up guarding the dog, and so is in a position to tell Slam when the owner-lady gets kidnapped by the Chinese for some reason.

Fact 4: Slam Bradley loves fighting so much that he will fight anything, even a store display:

What? That's not true, Slam! I'm almost certain that it isn't! The friggin' Manchu Dynasty made people grow their hair funny, that's all. Dude probably just wants you to stop pulling on it like that. Jerk.

Okay, pretend that in this next panel Slam is fighting someone other than horrible ethnic stereotypes. Ready? Go go go!

Possibly the best fight ever, right? I mean, screw swinging someone around by the leg. Were I in any position to demand things of DC Comics I would demand that Batman do this to someone post haste. Like, he's fighting evil hippies or something. That would be boss.

In any case, everything ends well. Shirtless Slam rescues the dame, Shorty proves himself by capturing the bad guy:

... and Slam and Shorty become BFFs:

Uh, that's a little creepy, Shorty.

So, disregarding the stereotypes (which are NOT APPROVED), I really enjoyed Slam and Shorty's first appearance. The fact that Slam is just in the detective racket because he loves to fight is terrific. Plus, Shorty is frequently funny when he's supposed to be funny, something that was almost vanishingly rare in comics for far too long. Therefore, Slam Bradley is